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The Ultimate European Vacation: Europe By Rail (plus the chance to win a 1st class RailEurope global pass for two!)

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For me, there is no more relaxing way to travel than riding the train. Sitting by the window, a cup of coffee in one hand, my camera in the other hand, and watching the world go by, the landscapes change, while listening to the smooth and steady rattling sound of the train gliding down the tracks is the perfect way for me to see a country. I have taken trains in Thailand, the U.S., Spain, Portugal, Panama, India, Italy, Sri Lanka (I have an article about that amazing experience coming up), from England to France, all over the UK, and all over Germany.

Panama Canal Train Waggon
Fancy train travel in Panama

I believe that my love for trains was planted at a very early age, when my grandma would take me as a 3-year old on train rides across the country, simply because as a train driver’s wife, she was entitled to free train travel, and nothing was more delightful to her than spending a few hours on a train. For her, it was all about the journey, never about the destination, and her giddiness and excitement whenever we got on a train was infectious. I was recently able to plant the seed for another train travel lover when I took my 3-year old niece on her first train trip, and the sparkle in her eyes as the train rolled down the tracks me fall in love with train travel all over again. Her first train trip was within Germany, but I am hoping to introduce her to more of Europe soon – more on that below.

Why travel Europe by train?

Everybody knows that flying within Europe is ridiculously cheap – so why take the train? It’s simple: Convenience. When you take a plane, you have to make your way all the way out to the airport. Budget airlines charge you for luggage that goes beyond a carry-on. You are limited with what you can take on a plane. And when you reach your destination, you still have to make your way to the city center. And let me tell you: A low-cost airline is low cost for a reason. Most airlines use cheaper, smaller airports far outside of a city, many of which aren’t even connected to the city as well as the main airports are. Memmingen, the airport used by some budget airlines for Munich, is actually a city two hours away from Munich! I remember how I landed at the low cost carrier airport in Oslo only to find out that Oslo was actually a nearly 2-hour bus ride away.

If you take the train, you’re right in the city center, you don’t have to worry about getting to an airport and you can take much luggage as you want – without additional costs. If you calculate the time it takes you to get out to the airport, the 2-hour pre-boarding time you have to spend at the airport, the actual flight, plus traveling to the city center at your destination, it can actually take longer to travel by air than by train (I learned that the hard way when I flew from Paris to London, a journey that took a total of over 5 hours, as opposed to less than 3 hours on the EuroStar including the 30 minute pre-boarding time!). Another advantage: most hostels in Europe are located close to the train station, so you don’t have to carry your stuff very far. Plus, you actually get to see Europe, as opposed to on a plane, where you only see Europe from above. But countries like Italy, Switzerland or France are way too pretty to only see them from above – they’re much better enjoyed from a train window.Vernazza

My summer travel plans: Europe by train

As I will be spending some time in Europe this summer, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll get around, and the answer was easy: Trains! No matter where in Europe you are, train travel is efficient, comfortable and fast – almost too fast sometimes, when you take one of the high speed trains, which run in most European countries.

For my summer trip, for which I am still working out the details, but which will definitely include Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Germany and possibly Finland and the Baltics, this could turn into a complicated and time-consuming matter – figuring out all the local train websites, payments in different currencies, trying to read train schedules in several languages… but it doesn’t have to be complicated – if I use RailEurope.train in malagaTrain travel in Europe has the reputation of being expensive – but that’s only if you want to buy a ticket on the spot. If you book in advance, you’ll be able to score some fantastic deals, just as you would when booking a flight or a bus well in advance. If you want to travel by train at an affordable price but stay flexible at the same time, rail passes are the way to go, and RailEurope offers a variety of European rail passes designed for independent Euro trippers.

How does RailEurope work?

RailEurope is the global leader in European rail distribution and lets you book individual train trips through the RailEurope website (which is easier than figuring out the French TGV site, for example), and choose from a wide range of rail passes, all at a very affordable price.

For example:

  • France Rail Pass: AUD199*
  • France & Spain Rail Pass: AUD300*
  • Global Rail Pass: AUD439*
*These are starting prices – the exact rate depends on the length of your trip, 1st or 2nd class.
Raileurope Passes
Click on the image to get an overview of all available RailEurope passes

As you can see, you can choose a rail pass for a single country, for two neighboring countries, customize a rail pass and include exactly the countries you’re planning to visit, or choose the Global Rail Pass which lets you ride trains in 28 countries. You decide for how long you’ll be traveling, and during that time, you can use the pass a certain number of times. Instead of being restricted by a limited number of travel days, you can decide how often you’re planning to use the pass.

Overall, a rail pass makes it much easier for you to enjoy your Euro trip – you can even build your dream trip with RailEurope’s interactive train map. In addition to passes, the RailEurope website lets you check timetables, book single train tickets to over 15,000 destinations, and has city and country guides.trains in germany

Win two 1st Class RailEurope passes!

You can win a 1st class rail pass valid for 2 people, which gives you unlimited travel in 28 countries, and is worth AU$1,662, by simply participating in the following survey:

Click here to take the survey for a chance to win 2 RailEurope passes!

The survey takes only three minutes to fill out, and brings you one step closer to your own European dream trip by train!

Hurry up though, the last day to take the survey is 20 May 2015.

Are you a fan of train travel? What was the best train ride of your life?old train station1

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19 Comments

  1. I am actually planning a trip to Europe this summer where I’ll be relying mostly on trains to get me around as well! I plan on going to the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, and Italy…would be awesome if we happen to be in the same place at the same time!

    1. Caroline, awesome! It’d be great if our paths crossed somewhere 🙂 Are you on Instagram so that I can follow where you are?

  2. Perfect timing on this post, as I’m in Vienna and trying to figure out the best way to take the train down through Slovenia to Croatia. You do miss so much by air, even if it saves a ton of time. Not worth it to me to miss the lovely scenery, especially near the alps. The contest is pretty sweet as well, thanks!

    http://www.headelsewhere.com

    1. Allison – good luck for the contest 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying your trip! I love train rides through the Alps!!

  3. I recognized that train in Panama, amazing trip! Your tips for traveling with the train in Europe are good too. When I was young the eurorail was super popular, nowadays with cheap flight tickets not so much any more.

    1. Susanne – yes, it’s a beautiful train! 🙂 I still think traveling Europe by train is so much more rewarding than jetting from place to place on a plane!

  4. We’re really looking forward to training it around Europe this summer too! I definitely prefer it to flying, even if it does take longer…at least you get to see the landscape change and feel like you’re actually going somewhere, rather than suddenly being magically transported to a new place, almost out of context.

  5. Hi Dany,

    Thank you for this great post. I travel a lot ( unfortunately 90% by plane).
    You hit the right spot when you say that trains are by far the most convenient way to travel. And also most romantic.

    You will also meet a lot more people on the train ( compared to any other way of transportation).

    Europe is also probably the best continent to see from the train. It is cheap, convenient, fun, you get to meet people, trains take you directly to city centers.

    And most of all you get to enjoy slow motion travel ( try that with modern air travel).

    Great post. Unfortunately it will take me some time before I can take a long train trip.

    Neno

    1. Thanks, Neno! There is definitely a romantic notion about train travel, I had it in the post at first but then took it out because I thought it sounded too cheesy 😉 I also agree about meeting new people- so easy on a train, especially in Europe during the summer, when there are so many travelers around. Met some great people on a train in Sri Lanka not too long ago. I hope you’re entering the giveaway 😀

  6. I’d love to travel extensively in Europe by train! It’s such a great way to see the different regions and get to meet people.

    One of my favorite travel experiences is the US equivialent. A month long pass on Amtrak! I know…. Bad press and lot’s of bad talking it… BUT it is actually quite cool to see that massive country from the sightseeing car of a train. Most stops are right in the city center (notable exception being San Francisco).

    1. I know that Amtrak feels like a train from the stone age compared to European trains but I’d still love to take one across the country!! I hope I’ll get to do that one day.. amazing travel experience for sure, Mark 🙂

  7. You might want to check out seat61.com before you buy any rail passes – he has a great article about how they can now be more expensive than buying singke tickets because of booking fees etc.

    1. Andrea – I agree about how they can be more expensive but I still think they’re great for people who don’t want to deal with navigating all the local train sites individually. And I love Seat61.com, btw! 🙂

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